A North Yorkshire local authority which paid five of its most senior officers a total of more than £1.7 million before being merged with other councils has been held up as a bad example of the use of public money by the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

The campaign group’s Town Hall Rich List 2024 features five top officers at Hambleton District Council, all but one of whom left the authority voluntarily ahead of it being merged with North Yorkshire Council last April, despite being assured they would be given roles at the new unitary authority.

The list features all council employees in the UK in receipt of more than £100,000 in total remuneration in the 2022-2023 financial year.

Despite its relatively small overall budget and limited responsibilities compared to many local authorities, Hambleton council features three times in the country’s top 10 highest remunerated council employees.

Its chief executive received £429,307, its director of environment £393,468 and its director of law and governance £375,492.

In addition, the Town Hall Rich List highlights how Hambleton’s deputy chief executive received £256,866 and its director of leisure and communities £286,619.

The list reveals three of the former Hambleton council officers were in receipt of three of the 10 highest bonus payments paid to local authority employees in the country and three of the country’s top five compensation payments to council employees.

Other district and borough councils which merged to form North Yorkshire Council last year saw their top officers receive a fraction of the public funds approved by Hambleton council.

Elsewhere in North Yorkshire, the highest remuneration was to Harrogate Borough Council’s chief executive who received £237,000, while Ryedale’s received £136,00 and Selby’s £109,000.

Before approving the exit payments, Hambleton council’s leadership dismissed criticism from Unison and claimed officers might find it difficult to secure jobs after Hambleton was abolished.

However, ahead of Hambleton being abolished, South Derbyshire District Council announced Hambleton’s outgoing chief executive would start just four weeks later as its chief executive on a salary of about £131,000.

At the time, the council’s leadership said the bonus paid to officers had reflected their contractual entitlement.

They said targets set for each of the directors had been assessed under key performance indicators which showed they had all achieved “outstanding service to our community”.

Schemes the directors oversaw included the construction and launch of a new crematorium, the delivery of the Treadmills development on the former Northallerton prison site as well as bringing in £20 million of grants and projects over a five-year period.

Responding to the Town Hall Rich List figures, Councillor Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire Council, said with the exception of the chief executives, all the staff of the former district and borough councils had been able to transfer to the unitary authority.

He said: “The fact that some did not do so and received very large payments for not doing so is a matter for the leadership of the district council concerned.

“It wasn’t unlawful, they were entitled to arrive at those decisions, however questionable those decisions might be.”

Callum McGoldrick, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers are tired of coughing up for golden goodbyes, and residents in Hambleton will be no exception.

“It’s even worse when council officials pocketing these payouts end up in another town hall in short order.

“Ministers must place a cap on exit payments for all parts of the public sector.”